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Attack on Orleans
Part of the U-boat Campaign of World War I
Attack on Orleans.jpg
Imperial German Ensign and US media coverage of the Attack on Orleans
Date 21 July 1918
Location
Result German victory
Belligerents
 United States  German Empire
Commanders and leaders
unknown German Empire Kapitänleutnant Richard Feldt
Strength
Sea:
1 tugboat
1 schooner
3 barges
Air:
9 Curtiss HS seaplanes
1 submarine
Casualties and losses
1 tugboat damaged
1 schooner and 3 barges sunk
no casualties
none

The Attack on Orleans was a naval and air action during World War I on 21 July 1918 when a German submarine fired on a small convoy of barges led by a tugboat off Orleans, Massachusetts, on the eastern coast of the Cape Cod peninsula. Several shells fired during the engagement likely missed their intended maritime or aircraft targets and fell to earth in the area around Orleans, giving the impression of a deliberate attack on the town.

Aftermath

U-156 got away and headed north, where it continued to attack other allied ships. Back in Orleans, a few shells and craters were found on shore; some also were found in the nearby marsh. The area sustained minor damage. The psychological effects on the population of Orleans were immediate, as people began reporting hearing naval battles off the coast.

Others talked about the supposed "mother ship" for U-156. Newspapers dubbed the engagement as the "Battle of Orleans" and offered a reward for the discovery of submarine supply bases in the Bay of Fundy. Towns also banned lights for fear that German spies would use them to signal U-boats. The attack on Orleans was the only Central Powers raid mounted against the United States mainland during World War I.

It was also the first time the Continental United States was shelled by a foreign power's artillery since the Siege of Fort Texas in 1846. There were no fatalities. The Continental U.S. would be shelled again twice in 1942 by Japanese submarines during the Pacific War. These two engagements are known as the Bombardment of Fort Stevens along the northwest Pacific coast of Oregon, and the Bombardment of Ellwood near Santa Barbara, California.

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